Tag Archives: National League

Kick Kelly’s Night out

20 Feb

After John “Kick” Kelly was fired as manager of the Louisville Colonels in June of 1888, he returned to the National League as an umpire.

When he missed the September 21 game between the New York Giants and Detroit Wolverines, most papers reported he was out sick.  The Detroit Free Press was more specific:

“Mr. Kelly’s white uniform did not make its appearance yesterday when the signal was given and after a painful pause it was concluded to on with the game minus his presence, and John War of the New York team, was selected to umpire…Kelly’s non-appearance is not hard to explain.  The man who has masqueraded as a star umpire has for some time past been attempting the difficult feat of rendering proper decisions on the ball field and at the same time maintain intimate relations with an extensive ‘jag.’ In this effort Mr. Kelly has proven a dire failure, much to the discomfiture of the players compelled to submit to the awful decisions resultant on the aforementioned ‘jag.’”

The paper said Ward acquitted himself well and that Kelly “was not missed to any great extent.”

There was more to the story.

The following day The Free Press said:

“Mr. Kelly was a guest at police headquarters…The cause of Mr. Kelly’s presence at the headquarters was a disagreement between himself and a person whom it would be superfluous to mention by name.”

Their competition, The Detroit Tribune, thought no details of Kelly’s arrest were superfluous:

“Kelly, the League umpire…occupied the “Dead man’s” cell in the Central Police Station about three hours today.  For the past three nights Kelly has been painting the town, and last night his hilarity broke out in a house of bad reputation.  He and a number of local characters started out in the early part of the evening and went to a house on Antoine Street.”

After drinking “several bottles of wine,” Kelly was said to have told his companions:

“I can lick anybody, an I will pound the first person who says a word.”

The party moved to a local brothel, where after more wine, an attempt was made to remove Kelly from the premises:

“He struck one of the inmates, Emma Gordon, on the head and knocked her down and kicked her.  He then struck one of the other inmates, and when the Gordon woman arose, he struck her in the mouth, cutting her lower lip and nocking two of her teeth out. After having asserted his manhood in this way Mr. Kelly was willing to leave and did leave.”

Kelly returned to his room at Detroit’s Hotel Cadillac, where, as he was sleeping, the police “roused him up gently, but forcibly, and led him” to jail.

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Kick Kelly

According to the paper “a large delegation from the ‘sporting fraternity’” of Detroit had Kelly quickly released.

Kelly paid the woman he assaulted $75.  He worked the September 22 game between New York and Detroit.

Despite paying the woman, Kelly told a reporter for The New York World that had done nothing wrong:

“I was so sick on Friday that I could I was unable to leave the hotel.  I was perfectly sober; in fact, I have never abstained from the use of intoxicants so completely as of late.  I committed no assault, as the fact of my almost immediate dismissal proved, nor did I receive any injury of any kind…My arrest was prompted by spite.  I went out the next day and umpired good ball.”

Kelly said he was the victim of “a thirst to grind the umpire,” and a “love for sensationalism.”

The Boston Post said the story from Detroit was nothing new:

“At Washington recently, Umpire Kelly was too intoxicated to discharge his duties properly.”

The paper said that if the Detroit charges “are borne out by facts, he has disgraced himself and the league and should be discharged at once.”

The Detroit Tribune said of Kelly’s denials:

“Umpire Kelly is telling them in the East that he didn’t drink too much and didn’t abuse and beat a woman in Detroit, adding that the Detroit papers had a spite against him and tried to ‘do’ him.  Down in the East they take Kelly’s denial with a grain of salt.”

Kelly was never disciplined further by the authorities in Detroit or by the National League.  He and “Honest John” Gaffney were selected to umpire the post season series between the Giants and the American Association champion St. Louis Browns.

During that series, Kelly was accused of a charge that plagued him as frequently as the one about his drinking; his perceived favoritism of the Giants.  Browns owner Chris von der Ahe went so far as to charge that “Kelly had money on the New Yorks.”

Kelly responded in a letter that was printed in The Boston Globe:

“Chris von der Ahe is hot because the St. Louis men are being slaughtered by the New Yorks.…He lost his nerve and he wants to be revenged on the umpires.”

The Giants won the series six games to four.

Kelly then did what anyone trying dodge charges of a drinking problem would do; he and Mike “King” Kelly decided to open a bar.  The New York World said:

“Umpire John Kelly and $10000 Mike will begin operations in Shang Draper’s (a New York criminal and saloon keeper) old place, corner of thirty-first Street and Sixth Avenue.”

Kelly moved to the American Association the following season.

The business apparently did not operate for long either, the following spring The New York Herald asked:

“With Mike Kelly captain of the Bostons and John Kelly umpire in the American Association, what will become of the New York wine joint—Shang Draper’s old place?”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things: Lost Quotes

11 Feb

Hughie Jennings on Ossie Vitt, 1915

Hughey Jennings told The Detroit News in 1915:

“Vitt is the most valuable player in the American League.  He is the most valuable because he can play three positions in the infield.  He is also an excellent outfielder and can field with the best of them.  Vitt lacks the class to gain a regular position because he cannot hit.”

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Ossie Vitt

Over ten seasons with the Tigers and Red Sox, Vitt hit just .238

A White Stockings Player on George Washington Bradley, 1876

After winning their first four games of the National League’s inaugural season—and scoring 40 runs–the Chicago White Stockings were shut out by St. Louis pitcher George Washington Bradley on May 5, 1876; Bradley yielded just two hits in the 1-0 win.  An unnamed Chicago player was quoted by The St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

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Bradley

 “A man might just as well try to successfully strike his mother-in-law as one of his balls.”

Bill Terry on John McGraw, 1934

Despite their often-strained relationship—they once went two years without speaking, Bill Terry, speaking to The Associated Press, said of John McGraw after the man who managed him and whom he replaced as manager, died in 1934:

“I don’t think there ever will be another manager as great as McGraw.  I had my little arguments with him but there was always a soft spot in my heart.  He was the only man I ever played big league ball for, and to hear that a man who has spent his whole life in baseball has gone makes me feel humble.  We will call off practice on the day of his funeral.”

Hal Schumacher on John McGraw, 1934

Hal Schumacher played for John McGraw as a 20-year-old rookie in 1931, and for part of 1932 before McGraw was replaced by Bill Terry.  When McGraw died in 1934, Schumacher told The Associated Press:

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McGraw

“I never could understand his reputation as an iron-fisted ruler.  I never heard him bawl out a rookie.”

Harry Wright on fans and winning, 1888

Harry Wright, told The Pittsburgh Press about the difference between how fans treated winning clubs in 1888 versus his time with the Red Stockings in the 1870s:

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 Wright

“I won the championship six times, and the most we ever got was an oyster supper.  Now the whole town turns out to meet the boys when they return from a fairly successful trip.  They are learning how to appreciate pennant winners nowadays.”

Dick Hoblitzel on his “X-Ray Eye,” 1911

Dick Hoblitzel told The Cincinnati Times-Star in the spring of 1911 he was “training his batting eye,” and:

“(B)elieves he will soon be able to count the stitches on a ball before it leaves the pitcher’s hand.  ‘It’s the X-ray eye that does this,’ he avers, and he has made a bet of a suit of clothes that he will finish in the .275 class or better.”

Hoblitzel, perhaps as a result of his “X-ray eye,” hit.289 in 1911.

Tommy Corcoran on Umpiring, 1897

Tommy Corcoran told a Sporting Life correspondent in 1897:

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Corcoran

I believe I’d rather carry scrap iron for the same money than umpire a ball game.  There is no vocation in which there is less sympathy or charity than in baseball.  It must be awful for an old player to listen to the abuse he has to stand from those he once chummed with.  There is an illustration of the heartlessness of some players.  That umpire’s playing days are over, or he wouldn’t be an umpire.  He is trying to earn a living and his old comrades won’t let him.”

“I’ll Never Again don a Pittsburgh Uniform”

28 Jan

Max Carey’s parents wanted him to become a Lutheran minister, in 1917 the Pittsburgh papers suggested that he was trying to become an attorney.

Carey, from his home in St. Louis, informed Pittsburgh Pirates owner Barney Dreyfus in January that he was a free agent. The Pittsburgh Press said the reason for “Carey’s outburst” was the contract “did not contain that section known as ‘Clause 10;’” the Pirates had omitted the Reserve Clause from the contract, and Carey proclaimed himself a free agent.

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Max Carey

Carey told the paper he was confident in his position:

“I admit that the Federal League is not around to help me out, but I have consulted several prominent attorneys here and in other cities and all tell me that the Pittsburgh club cannot reserve me and that it does not hold an option on my services for 1917.”

Carey said he was not engaged in a holdout and was “sincere in my determination to quit the Pittsburgh club.”

He acknowledged that the other owners “can combine against me,” but vowed if that were the case:

“I’m through with professional baseball for all time…I’ll never again don a Pittsburgh uniform and in this Mr. Dreyfuss knows I am sincere”

Dreyfuss told The Press:

“Carey is hunting publicity, I’m not.  Let him do the talking.  I have nothing to say now.  When the proper time comes, I will act—not now.”

The Pittsburgh Post compared Carey’s attempt at free agency with that of an occupied country:

“Max Carey’s chances of getting by with it are fully as good as Belgium’s”

Over the next several days, Dreyfuss remained silent, but the papers’ attitude about Carey went from amused to annoyed when it was reported that:

“Carey has even gone so far as to attempt to peddle his services to other major league clubs, who were astounded when they received letters from the player, informing them that he considered himself a free agent.”

The Press said:

“It can be said that Max is not making any friends among the fans by his tactics.  He has never been a popular player, in spite of the fact that he is a talented and clever performer, for the simple reason that the patrons of the sport have come to realize that he is supremely egotistical and selfish”

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Carey

After two weeks, Carey said he was requesting a decision from the National Commission o his status.  He told The Associated Press (AP):

“If the commission rules that I am the property of Pittsburgh then I will take another legal course.”

In early March, Carey contacted Dreyfuss by telegram.  The Post said “No attention was paid” to the message by Dreyfuss.  The Pirate owner said of Carey and two other holdouts, Bill Fischer and Walter Schmidt:

“Some of these men have requested conferences, suggesting that it would be an easy matter to fix up what they term ‘our differences.’ As far as the Pittsburgh club is concerned, there are no differences.  What we offered each player is final and no changes are contemplated.”

Two months after Carey first declared himself a free agent, The Philadelphia Inquirer said:

“Carey took his case to the National Commission and was turned down.  He appealed to the National League and was informed that the Pirates had placed him on their reserve list.  He also was told under baseball law no other club in the major or minor leagues could negotiate with him without the consent of Dreyfuss.  Carey than asked the Pirates’ owner to trade him to the Phillies, but his request was promptly denied.  Now, Carey says he will bring an action against Dreyfuss, charging oppression and conspiracy.  But even if the courts should declare Carey free to sign with some other ball club his hands would be tied just the same.  Carey has been badly advised.”

Within days, Carey seemed to finally agree, The Post said:

“It is known that Max is beginning to awaken to the fact that he can gain nothing by a further holdout, and it is believed he will soon follow his mates to the Columbus (Georgia) training grounds.”

On March 14 it was reported that Dreyfuss sent him a contract calling for $5000, the same amount he received in 1916, The Press noted that “No letter accompanied the contract,” and that Carey returned only the signed contract, suggesting that the relationship between Carey and Dreyfuss was strained.

 The Post said:

“Max Carey, renowned free agent, has ceased from free-agenting and will devote his spare moments this summer to road-agenting—on the base-lines, it is hoped.”

Carey’s two-month effort to challenge the Reserve Clause was over.  He joined the Pirates in Georgia at midnight on March 15.  The paper said:

“When the Pirates awoke from their slumbers and spied Carey at the breakfast table this morning, they gave him a rousing welcome.”

He had a solid season after his foray into free agency, he led the National League in stolen bases for the third straight year and hit .296 for the 51-103, eight place Pirates.

In November of 1917 Carey told an AP reporter in St. Louis that he was “ready to retire.”  The report said:

“He is not a holdout, he has not announced that the salary offered by president Dreyfuss does not agree with his figures, but he has departed from St. Louis for the Pacific Coast, and the move may close the baseball career of the Pirates’ sterling center fielder.”

The Press dismissed it “as the annual Carey story,” and said:

“It occasioned scarcely any comment in this neck of the woods, where the fans have come to look upon any off season as really incomplete without some sort of a story concerning the Pirates’ star outfielder.”

Carey signed for $5000 again and was named captain of the Pirates, replacing the retired Honus Wagner.

“Durbin’s Career in Baseball was Meteoric”

21 Jan

Blaine “Kid” Durbin was a sure thing. So said Frank Chance on the eve of the 1907 season.

As a 19-year-old, Durbin posted a 32-8 record for the Joplin Miners in the Western Association the previous year. Chance told The Chicago Daily-News:

“Blaine Durbin is going to be a sensational pitcher before long. When he stacks up against a club like Boston, with four or five left-handed hitters, he is going to make a great showing. What I like best about him is his nerve. Nothing can freeze him.”

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Durbin

Chance said he was not concerned that Durbin was just five foot eight, nor was Henry “Farmer” Vaughan, manager of the Southern Association Birmingham Barons.

Chance said after Durbin pitched in a game that spring in Alabama, Vaughan approached him to see if “there was any chance of his getting” the rookie pitcher, and Chance mentioned Durbin’s size. Vaughn replied:

“He’s as big as Clark Griffith (Griffith is listed at 5’ 6”), and Griffith used to strike me out quite often. If Griffith was big enough, so is Durbin.”

Chance said:

“I told Vaughan I had no idea of letting him go.

“’Let me ask just one favor of you then,’ answered Vaughan: ‘don’t leave him in this league. If I can’t have him, I don’t want to have to play against him.’”

Chance said “scarcely a day passes that I don’t get a query” about Durbin and Chance said half the National League wanted him:

“I guess Durbin has a permanent berth with the Cubs.”

Durbin pitched in just five games for the Cubs (0-1 5.40), and only remained with the team for the entire season because when the Cubs tried to send him to Omaha in June, according to The Chicago Tribune, “The Boston Nationals stepped in” and would have taken Durbin.

He remained with the team all season and appeared in six games as an outfielder and pinch hitter.

Durbin did not get into in a game during Chicago’s World Series victory over the Detroit Tigers, but his hometown paper, The Fort Scott (Kansas) Republican, said he took home $2300.10 in postseason money and used it to buy a farm.

Still a hero in the Missouri town where he won 32 games in 1906, The Joplin Globe called him “the best baseball pitcher that ever wore a Joplin uniform,” when Durbin visited friends there and “proudly displayed the world’s championship emblem…in the form of a watch charm and represents a bear’s head holding a baseball.” Durbin told the paper the Cubs had big plans for him in 1908:

“Manager Chance assured me that I would be one of the regular twirlers next season.”

The 1908 campaign got off to a bad start for Durbin even before the team’s opener in Cincinnati on April 14. Charles Dryden, the baseball writer at The Chicago Tribune, who had his own nickname for Durbin, said:

“Danny Dreamer Durbin lost out at the distribution of new uniforms, which took place at the fashionable hour of high noon. There were but twenty togas for twenty-one demon athletes. When the Peerless Leader sounded the boot and saddle call, Danny was in his apartment perusing the latest messenger boy thriller in the Tip Top Weekly and Donohue copped the new clothes.”

The “Donohue” referred to by Dryden was pitcher Joe Donohue, who had spent 1907 with the Spaldings in the Chicago City League; he was with the club at the beginning of the season but never appeared in a game for the Cubs or any other professional team.

Presumably, when Donohue was cut loose, Durbin was rewarded with a uniform—when he made his first appearance at West Side Grounds on April 22, after the team’s season opening road trip Dryden wrote in The Tribune:

“Danny Dreamer Durbin looked like a five-cent plate of ice cream in his new white suit.”

The “Danny Dreamer” nickname was placed on Durbin by Dryden in 1907, when the entire Cubs team attended a play featuring actress Lillian Russell “an ardent baseball fan,” after the World Series victory. According to The Sporting News:

“Durbin was a member of the party and occupied a prominent place in the front row of the box, all togged out in his dress suit and patent leathers.

“In appearance of Miss Russell’s hospitality, the Cubs chipped in and bought a beautiful bouquet of flowers for the popular actress. The bouquet was to have been presented her across the footlights.

“But Durbin stole a march on the Cubs. He copped the flowers and disappeared from the box. Shortly afterwards the bouquet was presented through he wings. Durbin did the presentation…(Dryden) wrote the story of Durbin’s little steal and told how he had done the ‘Danny Dreamer’ stunt.”

The closest Durbin came to pitching again for the Cubs was on June 2, with the club trailing the Pirates 7 to 1 in the bottom of the fifth, The Tribune said Chance had Durbin ready to enter the game, but:

“(W)hile little Danny Dreamer was warming up the Cubs got mad and pounded Vic Willis into a shoestring, scoring four runs.”

Mordecai Brown instead took the mound in the sixth and promptly allowed two runs. The Cubs lost 12 to 6.

Durbin remained with the team for the entire season, appearing in 14 games as an outfielder and pinch hitter, hitting .250 (7 for 28), and for a brief period in July it looked like he might get more playing time. The Daily News said:

“(Durbin’s) work in center field since the Cubs returned to their home park stamps this little southpaw as a man possessing the qualifications for developing into a grand outfielder.”

The paper also noted his “speed going down to first,” and claimed, “It is doubtful whether there is a faster man getting down to first in the big leagues than Blaine Durbin.”

Durbin all but disappeared from box scores after July but picked up another world championship check despite again not making an appearance in the series—however, it was not quite the windfall of 1907; The Tribune said Durbin was forced to split a $1500 share three ways (the shares were $1400 but the Cubs added $100 to make the three-way split) with pitcher Rube Kroh who appeared in two games during the regular season, and team trainer A. Bert Semmens.

Durbin refused to sign his contract the following season and vented his frustration to The Fort Scott Republican; the paper took the hometown heroes’ side:

“The older pitchers of the team have done all possible to hold him out of the game, knowing that he would soon take their place if worked regularly (he also) ranked as the fastest base runner on the team.”

The paper also noted Durbin’s anger at being allotted a one third share of World Series money and said he would renew a request he made during the 1908 season that he be “sold, released, or traded to some team where he would be used.”

The Republican said:

“While he appreciates fully the honor of being a member of the champion baseball team of the world, he would prefer to belong to a lesser team and receive just treatment.”

The day after word of Durbin’s grievances appeared in Chicago papers, he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds.

Being sent to a “lesser team” did not help. Durbin appeared in just six games as a pinch hitter with the Reds, he was 1 for 5 with a walk, and was traded to the Pirates in May. He was 0 for 1 as a pinch hitter with the Pirates before drawing his release.

Durbin never made it back to the major leagues. He finished the 1909 season with the Scranton Miners in the New York State League, hitting just .219 and playing the outfield.

The Pirates sold his contract to the Western League Omaha Rourkes after the season, but he refused to report and spent 1910 playing semi-pro ball in Miami, Oklahoma, where he also operated a cigar store and billiard parlor. The Kansas City Star wrote about him as a cautionary tale:

“So Blaine Durbin, once the pride of all Kansas, has been relegated to the village nine again, from which he sprang. Durbin’s career in baseball was meteoric; full of some pleasant spots and a lot of disagreeable episodes.”

The Star said:

“Durbin went to Chicago with the path to success made for him. He had everything, the speed, the nerve the curves and the added asset of a good batting eye. The minute Durbin got to Chicago he began to unmake this roseate future. He didn’t like advice; he didn’t along with the old heads; he was about as unpopular as the man who strikes out with three on. Chance held on to him for two years, hoping the youngster would come out of it; he didn’t. Then he breathed a sigh of relief when Cincinnati suggested a trade. Durbin did not last long with the Reds.”

Durbin returned to pro ball in 1911, accepting a contract with Omaha, and pitched professionally for the first time since 1907—splitting the season between Omaha and the Topeka Jayhawks; he posted a combined 15-18 record.

He was sold to the Oakland Oaks in the Pacific Coast League at the end of the 1911 season. He was 4-5 with a 2.61 ERA when Oakland released him in August. The Oakland Tribune questioned whether Durbin “might have made good if he had been given the opportunity to work often. He lived a clean life and didn’t find time to break up the furniture in the Seventh Street cafes.”

Durbin spent the rest of 1912 pitching for an independent team in Oroville, California.

His professional career was over at age 25.

He parlayed his tenure as part of a world’s champion into being a drawing card over the next 12 years, bouncing back and forth between amateur and semi-pro teams in Kansas, Missouri, and California.

 

 

Durbin settled in St. Louis and in July of 1941 was declared insane and sent to the Missouri State Hospital at Farmington. After he was released, he worked in a restaurant and lived in Kirkwood, Missouri. He died on September 11, 1943, one day after his 57th birthday.

“She Thinks him the Greatest Pitcher of the day” 

16 Jan

When Cy Young arrived in Boston to serve as pitching coach for the Harvard University baseball team—Wee Willie Keeler was hired as hitting coach—The Boston Globe said:

“Harvard picked out two very modest players for their coaches in Cy Young and Billy Keeler. Both will make good.”

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Cy Young

The Boston Post took the opportunity to introduce Boston fans to “Mrs. Cy Young, “of Roba Miller Young, The Post said:

“(She) is a stylish blonde with a charming manner. She is devoted to her popular husband and follows baseball news carefully. Although she does not travel with him while he is ‘on the road,’ she knows the game thoroughly and can keep a score as though she were an official scorekeeper.”

She told the paper:

“Oh, I just love Boston. I fell in love with it last summer when I came here with Mr. Young. It is so much cooler than St. Louis, where we used to live, and there are so many seashore places near.”

Mrs. Young told the paper “Her fads” were hunting and fishing, which she and Cy did together during the off season.

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Roba Young

“Of Cy Mrs. Young is very proud. She thinks him the greatest pitcher of the day.”

She said her husband had enjoyed his time on the Harvard campus, and was also asked about Cy’s thoughts on the prospects for the 1902 Boston Americans:

“Mrs. Young stated that she thinks Boston has a crack team for 1902, and ought to be in the running from the start.

“Mrs. Young said: ‘The National League seems to be in a bad way. They thought they had everything their own way, and never dreamed of a successful rival.’

“’I guess the success of the Americans must have astonished them a little. But I think with Mr. Young that there is plenty of room for both the National and the American Leagues.’”

Harvard, with William Clarence Matthews at shortstop, finished 21-3.

Young went 32-11 with a 2.15 ERA for the third place Americans who finished 77-60.

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things #28

19 Dec

Satch on Segregation, 1943

In 1943, The Associated Press asked Satchel Paige about the prospect of integration in major league baseball:

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Paige

“’It’s the only sport we haven’t cracked,’ the big, loose-jointed star of the Kansas City Monarchs said last night.

“’I think some of our boys will get major tryouts next spring; in a couple of years I believe they’ll be in the lineups. I wish we could start out with a club of own—all colored boys,’ he asserted.  ‘Later, when they got used to us playing, they could mix the teams up.’”

Fat Cupid, 1901

When the Chicago Orphans released veteran Cupid Childs on July 8, 1901, The Chicago Daily News eulogized the big league career of the one-time star.  Some highlights:

“The passing of Childs removes from the National League, probably forever, one of it’s best known characters… (He was) remarkably fast on grounders and flies, despite his fat shape and short limbs… (Chicago manager Tom) Loftus though he could make the fat man renew his youth, and Childs has certainly done the best he knew how.  Through years of experience the league fielders had learned how to play for his hits; his batting became light in consequence, and his fielding continued very good for a fat old player.”

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Childs

The paper was correct that Childs’ major league career had come to an end, he played three and a half more seasons in the minor leagues before calling it quits for good.

World Series Souvenirs, 1906

Two of the highlights of the surprise win by the 1906 White Sox over the Cubs in the World Series were the bases loaded triple by weak-hitting George Rohe that accounted for the all scoring in the 3-0 White Sox victory in game three; and Frank Isbell’s four doubles in game five.

Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Tribune, who made his reputation as a prognosticator that year by being one of the few experts to pick the Sox, told his readers about an encounter with Isbell after the series:

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Isbell

“I dropped in at the South Side Grounds…I discovered (Isbell) under the grand stand, staggering under a load of bats, and followed him along under the stand.  Then he dragged out a bushel basket filled with old practice balls and began packing balls and bats into a big dry goods box.

“’What the dickens are those, Issy,” I asked.

“’Balls and bats.’ Calmly remarked the Terrible Swede.

“’what are you going to do with them?’

“’I’ll tell you,’ remarked Issy, seating himself on the edge of the box.  ‘I began collecting them in July and saving them up.  I knew everyone in Wichita (Kansas, Isbell’s off-season home) would want one of the balls that was used in the world’s championship series.

“’Those, he added serenely if ungrammatically, pointing at the bushel of baseballs, “are the balls Rohe  made that triple when the bases were full.’ And those,’ he added, pointing to the bats, ‘are the bat used when I made those four doubles in one game.’”

Corbett on Gentleman Jim, 1916

After his baseball career, Joe Corbett worked for several years as a deputy to the San Francisco County Clerk.  In 1916, The San Francisco Call & Post said the younger brother of former Heavyweight Champion Gentleman Jim Corbett, had a way of dealing with fans who wanted to talk to him about his brother’s prowess in the ring—he would tell them:

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Corbett

“They tell me he was a great fighter; you see, I don’t know.  I only saw him in the ring twice; I guess he wasn’t fighting then.  (Bob) Fitzsimmons won the first time and Jeff (Jim Jeffries) knocked him out the second time.  But they tell me he was some fighter.”

“Cobb can Bend ’em Some”

11 Dec

The Detroit Times declared “The ball player is a queer duck,” in 1910

The paper based on the conclusion on how many players they observed who preferred to play out of their usual position while warming up before games.  And, that:

“Constant appearance in the public gaze, continual work in the profession the every act of which is the subject of comment on the part of the thousands, no doubt tends to bring out the peculiarities which lurk in the disposition of all men.”

The Times when Ty Cobb came out before the game the previous Sunday:

“(He) did not go to center.  Instead he pitched to (Tigers teammate Charles) Chick Lathers.  The utility man was armed with a big mitt and Cobb went through the motions of a man preparing to go into the box.  Cobb can bend ‘em some and nothing delights him more than to curve a ball unexpectedly and have a regular catcher fight it.”

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Ty Cobb

Cobb was not alone:

“Go to the park early any day and you can see Oscar Stanage engaged in (fielding bunts as an infielder)…  Stanage wears a finger glove and assays fancier stunts than the regular fielders can pull off.  He gets behind the regulation catching outfit only when he has to.”

As for visiting players:

“Addie Joss, of the Cleveland club aspires to be a first baseman.  Day after day he stands at the bag during practice periods and grabs wild throws and hot grounders.  If he could hit Joss would be a star at that position.”

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Addie Joss

One National Leaguer in the group, was Orval Overall of the Chicago Cubs:

“(He) would be a catcher…And so it goes all down the line.  If you can catch you would rather pitch, and if you can field you aspire to catch.

“But, there’s one thing none of them overlook—hitting.  A man might as well try to tip over the Majestic Building (Detroit’s second skyscraper built in 1896) as crowd his way out of turn up to that plate during batting practice.”

“The Things That Bring Good Luck to the Various Clubs”

26 Nov

In 1886, The St, Louis Post-Dispatch noted:

“Gamblers and old women are not the only ones who are given to superstitious observations of signs and to the carrying of luck tokens…Baseball players are more given to that sort of thing of late years than any other class of men.”

Under the Headline The Things That Bring Luck to the Various Clubs, the paper laid out the different “mascottic tastes” of the teams.

The paper said the success of the Cincinnati Red Stockings the previous season, was attributed in part to “Kid Baldwin’s pink jersey,” but the team’s fortunes turned in 1886 after:

“(A)fter a St. Louis laundry women’s daughter eloped in ‘Kid’s’ jersey and the club is now in last place.”

The Louisville Colonels had recently found a new “lucky hanger-on,” for a mascot; a calf born with a caul—the rare instance has long been the subject of superstition. The team took the calf ad proceeded to take five out of six games from the defending champion St. Louis Brown Stockings.

Pete Browning of the Colonels,“(C)arries a loaded die in the hip pocket of his knickerbockers for luck.  Before a recent game somebody took the die out of Pete’s pocket and he failed to make a hit that day,” ending a long hitting streak.

petebrowning

Pete Browning

The paper said that Brown Stockings captain Charles Comiskey and third baseman Arlie Latham disagreed on the best mascot for the team:

“Comiskey argued in favor of a mule, for which he has a kindly fellow feeling, and he said he knew where he could get one cheap.  Latham held out for (a small white) mouse because he owned one and won the day, though Comiskey still believed in the efficacy of the mule, and had his heel spikes made out of a cast-off shoe from the foot of his favorite animal.”

The mouse died–suffocating when Latham, carrying the mouse, got in a fight with teammate Doc Bushong—right around the time Louisville acquired their calf and the Brown Stockings dropped those five games to Louisville,

The Post-Dispatch said New York Giants President John Day had recently had a prospect for a new mascot for the team:

“(He) tore his hair out the other day when he was informed that the youngster born with a full beard in Williamsburg had died. Day was sure that he would have in him one of the best mascots in the country.”

The paper noted the better known mascots, “Little Willie Hahn,” of the Chicago White Stockings and Charlie Gallagher of the Detroit Wolverines—who was said to have been born with a full set of teeth—and said of other National League clubs:

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Willie Hahn

“The Bostons never had a mascot because they haven’t luck enough to find one.  The Washington and Kansas City teams are unable to get a mascot to even look at them.”

And concluded:

“The strangest thing about a baseball mascot is that he is occasionally traitorous and transfers his services to the other side without the slightest warning.  He will never play with a cripples, badly-managed or broken-up team, and as soon as a club begins to go down hill it is a clear case of desertion by the mascot.”

 

 

“It is a sad and Pitiful Story”

21 Nov

Thomas Frank “Tully” Sparks had a reputation for being a bit more cultured than his contemporaries: The Nashville Tennessean said of the Georgia born pitcher::

“(A)lthough so successful in his business as a ball tosser, has decided to acquire a professional education.  He is temperate and studious in his habits and is always in condition to pitch a star variety of ball.”

The Cincinnati Enquirer called him a “silent and modest gentleman.”

Sparks attended the University of Georgia and Beloit College in Wisconsin, and spent his off seasons working for prosperous cotton firms in Louisiana as a cotton sampler and buyer, so there was a great surprise in the Southern press when he became part of what would be a tabloid scandal today.

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Sparks

Sparks had spent the off season after posting a 22-8 record and 2.00 ERA working in Opelousas, Louisiana for the New Orleans based Oliver, Voorhies & Lowery cotton company.  After he had returned to the Phillies for the beginning of the 1908 season after a brief holdout, The Monroe Star reported “a sad story which arouse the tenderest sympathies of everyone in Monroe.”

The paper said:

 “Bride secretly married to Frank Sparks, Phillies’ pitcher, goes insane on hearing he deserted her.

“The principal in this sad story was formerly Miss Mabel Winter, the beautiful and accomplished instructor of the kindergarten department of the City High School, who was serving her fifth term in the school prior to her sudden and almost secret departure from the city one week ago tonight.

“Frank Sparks, the man who won her love, secretly married her and caused this bright and beautiful woman to go insane by deserting her.”

The Star said the couple had married just five months earlier on New Year’s Day:

“After the wedding the couple visited Galveston.  The marriage was kept a secret and Miss Winter returned to the city and resumed her position in the school and Mr. Sparks went to Opelousas.”

While the Phillies were training in the South, the paper said the couple “spent several days together’ in Atlanta.  In late April, Winter quit her job at the school and left for Philadelphia to join her husband:

“The secret of her marriage to Sparks then became public and has since been the subject of gossip.”

The Star said Sparks’ wife “became so violent” in her room in Philadelphia’s Hotel Walton, she was taken to the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane as a result of the desertion, which she learned about when a man met her at the railroad station and “pressed a note into her hand,” from Sparks.

The paper concluded:

“It is a sad and pitiful story”

The story was picked up by many papers in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Georgia, but virtually ignored in the North; limited to brief articles in a handful of papers in National League cities.

By May the story was forgotten.  Troubled by shoulder pain—which led to a trip to Youngstown, Ohio to consult with the famed John “Bonesetter Reese, according to The Philadelphia North American—the 34 year-old Sparks had his final winning season 16-15, 2.60 ERA in 1908.

Sparks’ big league career came to an end in June of 1910; he was 6-13 during his final two seasons.

By the time his major league career was over, the story of Mabel Winter was so forgotten, that when Sparks was granted a divorce from her in October of 1910, he claimed he was seeking the divorce because she had deserted him, Sporting Life said:

“(Sparks) testified that his wife left him in June of 1908, and has refused to live with him under any consideration.”

When Sparks died in Anniston, Alabama in 1937, his hometown paper, The Anniston Star said he was “modest and retiring and never sought the limelight of publicity.”

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up Other Things #26

5 Nov

Val Haltren’s Off-Season

Despite having hit .331, .340, and .351 in the three seasons since the New York Giants bought him, The New York Telegraph said one of his teammates did not approve of George Van Haltern returning home to California to play winter ball:

“One of the members of the New York team said the other day if Van Haltren would stay one winter where the weather was cold enough to brace him up , it would do him more good than a spring trip to get him is condition.”

National League President Nick Young told the paper, no player should play winter ball:

“Ball players should have the benefit of six months’ rest in the year. The strain of the long championship games is a severe tax, though few players realize it. They ought to save enough money to last through the winter, and take things easy.”

Van Haltren hit .301 or better for the next five years, even though he spent each winter in California—until he broke his ankle sliding during a game in 1902 all but ended his career.

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George Van Haltren

The Color Line, 1932

When the New York Yankees swept the Cubs four games to none in the 1932 World Series, Dizzy Dismukes, writing in The Pittsburgh Courier, said the series reignited talk of baseball integration:

“With the World Series over in four straight wins, fans who think little of the playing abilities of race ballplayers are now prophesying as how the Grays, the Crawfords, Black Yankees, Black Sox and any number of race clubs would have made a better showing against the Yankees.”

Nope

When the New York Yankees lost their first game of the 1938 season, in the midst of Joe DiMaggio’s holdout—he did not return until the 13th game—a reporter from The Associated Press tracked him down at his restaurant, Joe DiMaggio’s Grotto, on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco:

“Joe ‘was sorry’ to hear that the Yankees lost…but covered the holdout situation in eight flowing words…

“Have you contacted (Yankees owner Jacob) Rupert? He was asked.

“’Nope,’ was the reply.

“Will you accept $25,000?

“’Nope.’

“Will you appeal to Judge Landis?

“’Nope.’

“Will you play for anybody?

“’Nope.’

“Has Rupert contacted you recently?

“’Nope.’

“Is any settlement looming?

“’Nope.’

“Are you doing anything about the situation?

“’Nope.’

With that, DiMaggio returned to “selling fish dinners.”

DiMaggio appeared in his first game for the 6-6 Yankees on April 30. They went 93-57 the rest of the way, he hit .324 with 32 home runs and 140 RBI.

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With Ed Barrow looking on, Joe DiMaggio ends his holdout and shakes hands with Jacob Rupert

Cobb’s Stolen Bats

A small item in The Detroit Times in December of 1915 said the home of Frank J. Brady, the “property man” of the Detroit Tigers had been robbed.

Among the haul:

“(T)wo of Ty Cobb’s favorite bats, Catcher (Oscar) Stanage and shortstop (Donie) Bush also lost equipment which they valued highly.”

Also stolen was “the glove worn by George Mullin” when he pitched his no hitter. There was no record of the items being recovered. The paper valued the loss at “several hundred dollars.”